Magnificent Seven To Spearhead Asian Tour Challenge At WGC-HSBC Champions

Sentosa, Singapore: Canadian Richard T. Lee received an early birthday present by earning the final spot from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit to compete in next week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China.

Lee, rookie of the year in 2013, Australian duo Scott Hend and Andrew Dodt, and India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia qualified for the US$8.5 million showpiece at Sheshan International Golf Club as the leading four (not otherwise exempt) players from the Merit list.

Anirban Lahiri of India, the current number one, Thai stars Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat also qualified for the HSBC Champions by virtue of being in the top-50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, ensuring that seven members will fly the Asian Tour flag in China next week.

Lee, who is sixth on the Order of Merit, endured a nervous wait as he wasn’t sure he would earn his first WGC appearance after missing the halfway cut in Hong Kong last week.

“I’m lucky that two players (Lahiri and ThongchaI) in front of me were in the world’s top-50. I found out about this in Hong Kong and pretty much told myself to just make the cut but I didn’t! I guess I was lucky to still take that position,” said Lee, who will turn 25 on Thursday.

He started the year strongly with top-five finishes in co-sanctioned tournaments with the European Tour in Malaysia and Thailand. Lee has since earned over US$220,000 this season, almost as much as he earned in his first two seasons on the Asian Tour.

“I’m just grateful that I played well in the beginning of the year and I’m looking forward to playing in my first WGC event. This was pretty much my goal to get into the big events at the end of the season. I prepared myself at the end of last year to reach my goal and I have done it.”

Dodt, currently third on the Merit list, was delighted to qualify for the HSBC Champions, saying that Asia’s lone WGC event was a wonderful opportunity for players like himself to test their games against the world’s finest golfers.

“The hardest bit is getting there as it’s a WGC event. And you’ve got to make the most of it as most of these events are for top-50 players in the world. For me, I’ve got to make the most of the HSBC Champions,” said Dodt, who won in Thailand earlier this season.

“Sheshan is a strategic golf course. It’s long and you have to commit to a few tee shots.
It’s all mental for me. I’ve got the tools. I hit it as good as anyone and chip and putt as good as anyone.

“The next step for me is the mental part. I work with a psychologist back home and he knows very little about golf. He works with you as a person and I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved without his help. It’s still not quite there yet but I’ll chip away step by step.”

Chawrasia, fourth on the Order of Merit, was delighted to qualify for his third HSBC Champions appearance.

“Anytime you can get into the HSBC Champions, it means you’ve had a good year on the Asian Tour. There’s going to be a great field in China as all the top players are there. So you’ve got to be on top of your game which is always the test. The course at Sheshan is long and you’ve got to negotiate your way around it well.”